TSPLOST donors give little outside Atlanta

ATLANTA ­— Companies that were major donors to the campaign to pass the transportation sales tax in Atlanta gave little or nothing to a separate push to pass the proposal in other parts of the state where they have a presence.

The campaign for the 10 counties around Atlanta raised $6 million, but the rest of the state drew just $2 million, even though roughly 60 percent of the state’s population and projected tax revenue are outside the metro region.

The Coca-Cola Co. gave $197,000 to the Atlanta drive and zero to the statewide effort. The Home Depot spent $150,000 in the 10-county region that’s home to its headquarters and about three dozen stores, but nothing in communities such as Savannah, where it has three stores and a major distribution center.

Home Depot spokeswoman Paula Drake said, “Every part of the state – and all of our associates – are very important.”

AGL Resources, the parent of Atlanta Gas Light Co., noted that some of the metro materials were used in other regions. It gave $100,000 to Atlanta and $500 to the effort in the Augusta region.

“Additionally, we have informed all of our Georgia employees – Georgians who live and work in the 12 regions across the state – about this referendum,” said Annette Martinez, director of external relations.

The statewide campaign, Connect Georgia, conducted a poll in June that showed its message persuaded about 6 percent more people to support the tax, an amount that could be the margin of victory in some regions.

Connect Georgia had hoped to raise roughly half as much as the Atlanta sponsors to take advantage of lower-priced media in the smaller cities, according Heath Garrett, a Republican campaign consultant who teamed with Democrat Chris Carpenter to oversee the statewide campaign.

“As a campaign strategist, I’m always going to say we need more money,” Garrett said.

Observers suggest that Atlanta executives may have been more concerned about the roads they travel than the ones their customers struggle with. Most of the companies contacted declined to comment, but Wells Fargo spokesman Jay Lawrence said most of the bank’s employees work in Atlanta.

“For us it’s a quality-of-life issue, for all Georgians,” he said. “For us, the quality-of-life issue drove our decision.”

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